IN THE INTEREST OF L.T., A.T., AND D.T., Minor Children, K.T., Mother, Appellant.
review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan Flaherty,
Associate Juvenile Judge.
seeks further review of an order terminating parental rights.
R. Ramsey-Kacena, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, John McCormally, (until
withdrawal) and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorneys General,
Jerry Vander Sanden, County Attorney, and Kelly Kaufman,
Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.
Kimberly A. Opatz of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar
Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.
case, we consider a mother's appeal from the juvenile
court's final order terminating her parental rights to
L.T., A.T., and D.T. entered twenty months after the
evidentiary hearing on the issue. Approximately six months
after the evidentiary hearing, the juvenile court granted the
State's motion to reopen the record and present
additional evidence in support of its petition to terminate
parental rights. After receipt of the new evidence, the
juvenile court orally stated its intent to terminate parental
rights but did not enter a written ruling at that time.
after the juvenile court's oral announcement, reasonable
efforts toward reunification ceased. A few months later, the
mother requested, at a hearing and by motion, reasonable
efforts toward reunification pending the juvenile court's
more than nineteen months passed from the original hearing
without the juvenile court entering a written ruling, the
mother moved to reopen the evidence. The mother sought to
show that she was sober, was involved in an outpatient
program to maintain sobriety, and had obtained stable housing
a month after the mother's motion to reopen the evidence,
the juvenile court entered a written order terminating the
mother's parental rights. On the same day, the court
entered another order denying the mother's motions.
mother appeals. She challenges the termination order as
unlawful. She asserts that the juvenile court abused its
discretion by declining to allow her the opportunity to
present additional evidence after the passage of nineteen
months from the initial termination hearing. The mother also
asserts that she was entitled to reasonable efforts toward
reunification with her children until the entry of a final
written order of termination.
transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of
appeals expressed displeasure over the delay in the filing of
a timely order but nonetheless affirmed the ruling of the
juvenile court. We granted further review. We now vacate the
decision of the court of appeals, reverse the order of the
juvenile court, and remand the case to the juvenile court for
Background Facts and Proceedings.
are three children that are the subject of this case-L.T.,
A.T., and D.T. D.T., the youngest child, was born in May
birth, D.T. tested positive for amphetamines. The mother was
found responsible for child abuse arising from this incident.
2015, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) received
results of a hair test from the mother. She tested positive
for amphetamines. At a hearing on June 23, the mother
stipulated that the children were children in need of
assistance. Based on the stipulation, the court adjudicated
the three children as children in need of assistance. During
a dispositional hearing the next month, the parties
stipulated that the children should remain in their
parents' custody with DHS supervision. The court ordered
a permanency plan be submitted that would state that the
permanency goal is to maintain the children in their
methamphetamines by the parents in August and September of
that year led to the children's emergency removal from
the home. The juvenile court placed custody of the children
with DHS for purposes of placement in foster
care. The court also ordered a permanency plan
stating that the permanency goal is reunification with the
January and May of 2016, the juvenile court entered periodic
mandatory review orders. In these orders the court stated
that "the permanency goal at this time is family
reunification." The order also found that DHS had made
reasonable efforts to achieve permanency and recited a litany
of services that had been provided, including, but not
limited to, parental instruction and counseling; substance
abuse help; mental health treatment; medication management;
housing referrals; and family safety, risk, and permanency
services. In the May order, the court noted that it was
informed the State would file a petition to terminate
parental rights and directed the State to do the same.
June, the State petitioned for termination of the
parents' parental rights. The petition relied on four
different statutory grounds for termination and an affidavit
from a DHS social worker.
couple months later, in September, the court entered another
permanency review order. This order stated that "the
permanency goal at this time is reunification with a
concurrent goal of termination of parental rights and
adoption." The court again found that DHS was making
reasonable efforts to achieve permanency and noted that ...